- How did you arrive at your current job as Lead Consultant
for DRT Systems?
I was born and raised in England, obtained a Bachelor of
Science degree (first class honors - GPA 4.0 equivalent) in
Computer Science and a Master of Science in Management Science and
Operations Research (with Distinction), both from the University
Following the completion of my thesis, I started work at the
Ministry of Defense (MoD) in the UK working on Variance Reduction
Techniques applied to large scale simulation models. I then went
on to work for Dash Associates, a Mathematical Programming tool
vendor and consulting company.
After working in the UK for a couple of years, I moved to
Tennessee in 1993 to work for a small start-up company selling
software to the food/manufacturing industry. By 1995, I realized
they were never really going to "start up" and make any money, so
headed off to Dallas, Texas.
I briefly worked for SABRE in Dallas/Fort Worth on a system
determining the optimal location for rotable aircraft parts. This
was a very interesting application but unfortunately the project
was only short lived.
I then joined Deloitte Consulting/DRT Systems (DRT) where I
have been working as a consultant for the last 18 months. At DRT,
I have worked on a variety of interesting projects in a variety of
industries, in particular, telecom and the airline industries.
- How large is DRT Systems and what are the main products and
services it provides?
A technology unit of Deloitte Consulting, DRT Systems provides
integration services and solutions focused on electronic commerce
to public and private sector clients across a broad range of
The company serves its North American client base from 12
office locations, with headquarters in Toronto.
Deloitte Consulting is one of the world's top management
consulting firms, providing services to transform your entire
enterprise -- your strategy, processes, information technology,
We offer our clients a very different approach, because our
highly respectful, flexible, and collaborative working style gives
us an unmatched ability to transfer knowledge and skills and
generate employee buy-in. In addition, we focus on the realization
that changing business processes is necessary to achieve the
promised returns from strategy and technology. Our approach
enables us to deliver very different results -- results clients
can count on because they can trust their performance improvements
will not unravel once we leave, results they can build on because
these improvements make their organization more robust and
adaptable to future shifts in the environment.
Deloitte Consulting is an integral part of Deloitte Touche
Tohmatsu, a global leader in professional services, offering
consulting, audit, tax, and related services to clients
Deloitte Consulting. A very different approach. For very
- What are your main job responsibilities at DRT Systems?
What are some of the OR/MS problems that you have worked on while
I am a Lead Consultant at DRT Systems. I tend to get involved
in all aspects of software development, whether or not OR is
involved. I particularly enjoy OR applications because of the
extra value we can deliver to the customer. Many applications
simply cost the customer money to implement and may make
operations run a little more smoothly. Some of the OR applications
I have worked on can actually save the customer
considerable amounts of money usually many times more than the
original cost of the project by providing the customer with a
better solution to their problems.
As for application areas, these are very varied. That is one of
the exciting things about this career especially when you
combine the software development skills from a Computer Science
degree with the business and analytic skills from a MS/OR
In the 18 months I have been with DRT I have worked in the
Telecom industry for 9 months developing AIN (Advanced Intelligent
Networks) products. More recently I have been working with SABRE
using optimization techniques to deliver solutions for scheduling
pilots for recurrent training for two different airlines, and
generating valid (legal) working schedules for reserve pilots for
another airline. I also am involved with a project to optimize
trip trading between pilots.
- What tools and OR/MS techniques did you use to solve these
Tools vary considerably. Application development is usually
done in a team environment and usually uses a variety of tools for
different parts of the application. I think the key here is
flexibility and versatility. I prefer to choose the best tools for
the job. This may involve developing GUIs in Java applications
for cross-platform support, or Visual BASIC or PowerBuilder if
focused on the Windows environment.
Personally, I usually get involved in developing a server-side
component which implements an OR model. This is most often done in
C++, frequently under some flavor of UNIX, but occasionally under
Windows NT. Ive used CPLEX under AIX for extending the
functionality of an existing system. Ive also used XPRESS-MP as
both a modeling language and an optimizer. This allowed me to very
rapidly develop prototypes and get the whole application
implemented in a very short space of time. XPRESS-MP really is a
great tool for rapid application development.
- Prior to your employment with the Deloitte Consulting, what
are some of the past OR/MS projects that you found especially
memorable and rewarding?
One of my most memorable projects was, in fact, quite a short
project that I did in the UK. At that time I was working for Dash
Associates as a consultant, and I developed "IBOS" an Investment
and Benefit Optimization System. [I presented a demonstration of
this at the INFORMS/CSTS Conference in Williamsburg, VA in January
1994.] This was a strategic planning application to help upper
management in one of the UKs regional water authorities plan
their investments over the next 20 years. They had 19 different
"investment areas" in which they could invest for all or part of
the 20 years. Each investment area had various benefits associated
with it measured in four different ways. The water authority had
multiple objectives, and through the use of the application, they
were able to change some of their assumptions and spending
priorities and see what effect that would have on the optimal
allocation of budget among the different investment areas.
The application used Excel as the front-end and XPRESS-MP as
the modeling language and MIP optimizer. The users could make a
change and re-solve the problem in a matter of minutes (and this
was in the days of the 386!).
This was one of my first OR projects and one of the first times
I really saw the potential of OR in practice. From there, Ive
worked on numerous other practical applications of OR, primarily
in the food, telecom, and transportation industries and helped
save companies millions of dollars annually through the use of
- What are the most valuable technical skills that you
believe are needed to be successful in the OR/MS industry?
This depends on where you want to focus. Some people have made
a successful career in the industry by focusing purely on the OR
side of things. I, personally, really enjoy being able to see an
application right through from start to finish, including getting
involved with the development. So my computer science background
has been a big help here.
Technical flexibility is very important, so that you can choose
and use the best tool for the job and are not limited by knowing
just one or two platforms and/or languages. For example, much of
the OR development I have done has been under different flavors of
UNIX (SunOS, Solaris, AIX, IRIX, HP-UX, ULTRIX), some on PCs
(under DOS, Windows and OS/2). I have also used a variety of
development languages including C, C++, Java, Visual Basic, Visual
FoxPro, FORTRAN and even Excel. Different projects have different
needs, different priorities and different schedules. You need to
be technically flexible.
For example, I recently developed a prototype in 2 days using
Excel and XPRESS-MP. This was a proof of concept and has been well
received. The eventual application probably will be implemented
under AIX using C++ and XPRESS-MP.
- What are some of the most valuable non-technical
skills that you believe are needed to be successful in the OR/MS
People skills, definitely: You must be able to explain often
complex and technical models to a less technical audience, whether
this is the project manager or the customer. It is also important
to be a good listener and ask plenty of questions to be able to
draw the requirements out of the customer.
In the February 22, 1999 issue of InfoWorld, Maggie Briggs
wrote a very interesting opinion piece titled, "What
are the signs of a stellar software developer?". Here, she
lists her "Top 10" things that make a great software developer.
Many, if not all, of these can equally be applied to an OR
- In what ways do you continue to expand your knowledge of
new technologies and techniques in OR/MS?
I try to keep up with new developments by reading journals,
industry newspapers and magazines. I also read a variety of books
on some of the new technologies. I have tried to get more involved
with INFORMS and am an Associate Editor of INFORMS On-Line.
I continue to test myself by developing freeware and taking
various certification exams, though these are more on the computer
science side of the business rather than the OR side. I currently
am a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer and a Sun Certified
Ive recently started writing technical articles, which has
made me focus on a particular area and understand it well. For
example, a couple of my recent articles cover cross-platform Java
Gould, S. R. (1998), "How to avoid potential pitfalls in
your Java application development", lead feature article in
SunWorld, November 1998 issue. Available at:
Gould, S.R., "Developing cross-platform applications in
Java: Making 'Write Once, Run Anywhere' a reality", to be
published in an upcoming issue of Java Developers
- What do you find most rewarding about your career in
Variety: I enjoy the chance to work in almost any industry and
on a wide variety of different, and frequently challenging,
- What advice do you have for those just starting out in a
career in OR/MS?
If youre interested in practicing OR, become proficient in the
use of a computer. Learn how to program in a variety of languages
and get a solid background in software development. In particular,
adopt good "software engineering" practices this will help you
stand out from the crowd.
Additionally, brush up on your business and interpersonal
skills. Developing algorithms, in practice, only accounts for
around 10% of your time theres much more to being a successful
practitioner than simply applying OR.
- What do you predict the future has in store for the field
of OR/MS and for OR/MS practitioners?
This is a difficult one. Ive heard much speculation about
this. For OR to succeed as anything more than an academic
discipline, it needs to take on a much more business-oriented
front. I know there are people, like myself, in the industry
practicing OR. However, it is regarded by many outside of OR as a
highly mathematical and academic discipline, often somewhat
removed from reality. Things are changing but, possibly, too
slowly compared to other industries. Perhaps, in the future,
different areas of OR will be incorporated into different
- Do you wish to add something that was not